Competing Magic (Chapter Thirty)
Ezekiel woke up on a firm, black leather couch with a bit of a modern design to it. When he tried to get up, suddenly his head split with pain, making him cry out more in surprise and roll off the sofa to the floor.
"Ow!" he cried a second time. He had to wait until the throbbing against his cranium became bearable enough before he could make another attempt to sit up.
While rubbing the side of his sore head, Ezekiel looked around the unfamiliar room, wondering how he got here. Doing that, the first thing that came to Ezekiel's mind was that the room screamed of modern luxury. The quality of the furniture couldn't really compare to the furniture that graced the von Ghoul estate, but to commoners, they were probably good stuff. Everything was rather satisfactorily clean, with not a speck of dust to mar the room.
"Quite a lot of chairs," Ezekiel murmured to himself.
Apart from the main sofa that Ezekiel sat up on in front of the large flat screen television, there were also plenty of leather seats of uniform design, divided into pairs with their own glass coffee table. The trios of furniture were scattered throughout half of the vast, brightly lit room, where the television was stationed. The back half of the room was where a series of pool tables were placed neatly in rows of three. There were just two rows.
On the wall opposite of the large windows was a huge, worn bulletin board with colored papers messily pinned all over. Ezekiel recognized some of the papers as fliers announcing various events and programs relevant to scholars of the magic arts. There was also a huge banner taped above the board, printed in Comic Sans, bold: "DON'T MESS THIS UP, JAMES! BRING HOME THE TROPHY!"
At the corner of the room next to the television was a kitchen. The refrigerator, Ezekiel noticed, was the latest model of smart fridges with its own computer touchscreen on the doors which users could use to access the internet and digital apps. Right now that touchscreen was displaying the shield of Paladin Academy.
Taking in the papers on the bulletin board, the banner that urged a person named "James" to victory, and the refrigerator bearing the symbol of Paladin Academy, Ezekiel realized that he was in a faculty room.
A faculty room, as the name suggested, was a room for the faculty, where the teachers and various workers of the school could come and rest their weary bodies and minds. And Ezekiel could see that the school really went all out to take care of its teachers.
On the corner opposite of the kitchen full of shiny, electronic equipment were a good dozen massage chairs lined up against the wall. Three video game stations were hooked to the television and laid neatly on the floor in front of an equal number of yellow beanbag chairs.
With his location established, Ezekiel moved on to try to remember how he got here. Thankfully, it didn't take long for the haze that obscured Ezekiel's memories to start to fade. He was able to consciously recall the events that led up to his capture in a matter of seconds, although it felt longer than that.
When he got suspicious of Hal, he followed the custodian to the stadium. It was there, he witnessed Hal test his nefarious machine, the portal to another world that he, Thornton, and Trent had planned to use to get rid of Professor Wu and the other Star Mages for good. Unfortunately, after seeing the machine in action, Ezekiel was caught by Trent. He wasn't sure what happened after that. A few seconds after laying eyes on that weasel, he suddenly blacked out.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid."
Ezekiel cursed himself for being so careless. He should have known that Hal might have others with him at that stadium. If he had just been a bit more careful, Ezekiel was sure he wouldn't have been caught.
Well, at least they didn't bind and gag him, and lock him in some closet. That was one silver lining. Another was that he was completely alone here, in a comfortable faculty room, and in a building he was almost intimately familiar with: Emrys Hall.
Ezekiel could tell that he was in Emrys Hall from looking at the bulletin board which heavily focused on news about magic, and from the banner hanging above it. It was obvious who the banner was for. The only person it could possibly be referring to in the entire school was Professor James Jing Wu.
"I've always wondered what one of these rooms were like," he confessed aloud to himself. "I guess I can cross that off my student life bucket list."
The student life bucket list, as the name implied, was a list of things that Ezekiel wanted to do or experience while he was here in Paladin Academy. Although there were plenty of recreational centers and special events in the school, from theaters to game centers, he was still surprised by the sheer volume of his list. He wasn't confident that he'd even be able to finish three-quarters of that list by the time he graduated.
Ezekiel shook his head. Now wasn't the time to think about that list. He needed to think of a way out of this mess.
Obviously, the first thing to do if you're being held captive is to try the door, which was exactly what Ezekiel did. He checked both the main exit and the emergency exit, pushing and pulling on the handle with as much strength as he could muster. When they wouldn't budge, he tried to pull a sword out from his shadow to use, uncaring of the consequences that were sure to follow a student for destruction of school property. Well, he tried to, anyway.
After casting the spell to conjure a sword, Ezekiel bent down and reached into his shadow. However, instead of his hand sinking into the blob of darkness that he cast while his back was to the light, his hand brushed against cold, smooth, marble floor tile.
Ezekiel swore. Well, he figured there would be something in place to stop him from using his magic powers to escape. Still, it didn't hurt to try.
With a tired sigh, Ezekiel dropped onto the sofa to think.
He was trapped in the Emrys Hall faculty room with the doors locked, and his magic power cut off. It was a no-brainer who put him here, though he wondered why they would choose this room of all places. This was a room where the chances of a teacher walking in were extremely high, even during one of the school's biggest events of the year like today's. There must be plenty of other rooms that they could have used without such a risk.
Maybe they just needed a place for them to dump him in where he couldn't get in the way. They were probably being nice in leaving him here for someone to find him when everything was said and done. From that, Ezekiel wagered that this room wasn't being used as a base or anything like that.
"Well, of course not," Ezekiel said aloud. "Only a moron of a villain would use a room like this as a base of operations."
Since it was like that, the chances of either Trent, Thornton, or Hal coming back were likely zero.
"Well, that's one less thing to worry about," Ezekiel muttered. "But how do I get out of here?"
He glanced up at the round, black-framed clock hanging on the wall. If it was accurate, he still had maybe one hour before Professor Wu's match with Miss Woods started.
"I need to get out of here fast!" Ezekiel continued to talk aloud to himself. "I need to get out of here before it's too late!"
Once that long hand reached the number twelve, it would be game over for everyone! Not just Professor Wu and Miss Woods, but everyone, the hundreds to thousands of students, teachers, and parents who had come to watch the match would be pulled into the portal that infernal machine made and out of this dimension for what maybe forever.
"Oh, I don't think so."
The room's quiet atmosphere which had only been broken by Ezekiel's voice was suddenly broken by the voice of another.
Ezekiel sat up and gaped at the television dumbfounded. The large flat-screen in front of him had turned on by itself, and appearing on that screen was enlarged version of Hal's head.
"My, my, my," Hal said, smiling at Ezekiel's bewildered expression. "Sorry about the rough treatment. Hand to my heart, it was an accident when I hit your head against the door frame."
Well, that explained the headache, Ezekiel thought bitterly.
"What?" Hal suddenly said. His smile had dropped into a frown. "No questions about what I'm planning, or why I'm doing this? Maybe even a demand to be released?"
Ezekiel crossed his arms. He had recovered from his surprise and finally regained his composure and was presenting a straight face to the villain on the television.
"What would be the point?" he finally responded. He sat back on the sofa and crossed one leg over the other, making himself comfortable. His arms remained crossed over his chest. "Winston Thornton pretty much revealed everything. I know that you're the scientist whose project ran amok years ago, that you blamed a mage who happened to be there for the disaster, and that you think that mage was Josephine Desorciere Duncan. You had her thrown into another dimension as revenge and made your escape from the law doing the same thing to yourself.
"When you came back, you found out that years had passed, and that the girl you thought ruined your life had been rescued and was living the good life as a respected mage and a celebrated musician. That must have ticked you off, how she was practically drowning in success while you had to rebuild your life from the very bottom. You're a school janitor, for heaven's sake!"
"That's right!" Hal shouted. He angrily slammed his fists against a table off screen. It was then that the mask he's used to deceive everyone from Merlin Institute into believing that he was an upbeat gentleman and friend to all fell in an instant. His true face was one filled with insanity. "I'm one of the world's smartest men! I've dedicated my life to advancing mankind forward into the future. They should worship me! Not treat me like a criminal! And yet, here I am, cleaning toilets for spoiled, rich brats while she basks in the spotlight for playing some toy well!"
"And then you were found by Trent and Thornton, and together, you conspired to make some convoluted plan to help each other out and get rid of the Star Mages. You get your revenge, again, and Trent's gang become free of a stubborn nuisance. Your plan for doing that is to send them to another world, just like you did with Madam Duncan the last time. And no better time to put that plan in action than during the magic battle between Professor Wu and Miss Woods when they'll have conveniently tired themselves out from sparring with one another. Am I wrong?"
Thus concluded Ezekiel's reveal. Well . . . Not really.
"Bravo," Hal said, slowly clapping his hands. Each clap could have been no less than five seconds apart by Ezekiel's estimate. "Impressive. Truly impressive, Sherlock. Mighty fine detective work. Really. But for all the smarts you put behind putting all the pieces of the puzzle that I had laid out, it doesn't matter one bit since you're in there, and I'm out here. And - Oh? What's that, I hear?"
Hal cupped his hand around one ear and leaned to the right, his right not Ezekiel's. He had the sort of grin on his face that made the vein in Ezekiel's forehead throb. Ezekiel felt an unmistakable urge to wipe that smile off the arrogant villain's face.
"It sounds like the battle's already started," he said. "Better hurry before it ends, because once their battle is finished, then I will activate the machine to send them, that wretched woman, and everyone they care about to a world where there is no light or hope, only suffering, as they so richly deserve."
"You're wrong," Ezekiel said. He spoke even before the words had emerged in his mind. "You're wrong, you know."
"What?" Hal said. His smile had become a puzzled frown. "And just where am I wrong?"
Ezekiel would love to go through the whole list, but there wasn't any time, so he'll stick with telling the scientist the major ones.
"You're color-blind, aren't you?" he said.
"Y-yes!" Hal stammered. His eyes were wide with astonishment and confusion, giving away thoughts to Ezekiel that could be read like: "How'd he know? No one should know, so how did he figure it out?"
"You must be thinking how I figured it out," Ezekiel said. It was his turn to smirk at someone now. "Simple. Did you know that a mage's magic has a signature color?"
"Yes," said Hal. "Where are you going with this?"
"Let me finish," Ezekiel said. "I first heard about what happened at the science convention while digging up clues on Madam Duncan's past. Thinking that this might be connected to the recent monster attacks, I looked into it deeper and found out that there was a mage involved. That was who you blamed for ruining your little show."
"I know that," Hal said. He was getting impatient. "But what does that have to do with me being wrong?"
"For scientific genius, you sure are dumb," said Ezekiel, rolling his eyes up. He couldn't help but smile at the look of astonishment that was etched onto Hal's face.
Hal was dumbfounded. He was so bewildered by the sudden insult that he momentarily lost the power to speak. But it didn't take long for him to recover. It shouldn't. He was a genius after all. And once the insult sunk in, his face turned from a light pink color to a deep purple shade. That just made Ezekiel smile bigger.
"What did you call me? You dare -!?"
"I do," Ezekiel said. He was calm. Or, at least, that was what he wanted to look and sound while talking to this villain. He didn't want to show anymore moments of weakness to the man who was planning to hurt a lot of innocent people to get what he wanted. "Madam Duncan's magic is purple. Not blue. I had heard she fought back when she was a child. You should have seen her use her magic. There's no way you could have mistaken her magic for someone else's unless you were colorblind. Don't you get it? You've been going after the wrong person this whole time!"
"What? No. NO! YOU LIE! Josephine Desoricere Duncan is the one who ruined my life! She admitted it to me herself!"
"She was just trying to get you to leave everyone else alone," Ezekiel shouted. He couldn't help it. Tension rose from his gut, pushing him to raise his voice and shout at the villain to see the truth. "Just ask Thornton! He was Madam Duncan's mentor, after all."
"Augh!" Hal screamed, waving his hands around above his head like a madman. Just how immature could he get? In some way, he was even worse than Professor Wu. "It doesn't matter! Even if what you say is true, I'll just have Trent and Thornton help me in my revenge as compensation for my help."
Which meant that he wasn't going to stop no matter what, Ezekiel thought. He sort of expected an answer like that, but he had really hoped that Hal would have changed his mind about all this if he knew the truth. Well, time for Plan B, then.
"You won't get away with this!" Ezekiel shouted, standing up. He put one foot forward while shaking his fist at the villain. "I'll stop you!"
"Ha!" Hal laughed. "And how are you planning to do that? In case you haven't noticed, you're trapped here!"
"I'll escape," Ezekiel said. He puffed his chest out proudly with his arms crossed over it. "I'm a mage, after all."
"Good luck with that!" Hal said, sneering arrogantly at the trapped boy. "I've put an inhibitor device in the room that shuts off magic power. You should have realized already that you can't use magic in there. It's useless against someone like the Seven Star Mages, but it's more than enough for a brat like you. And the doors and windows are all bullet-proof, heavens know why. There's no way a lazy brat like you would be able to break your way out."
Ezekiel's eyes widened as if in shock. And then he distorted his face into a look of anger and glared at the scientist. That only served to please the villain and he sneered at the helpless boy.
"Well, I have to get going," Hal said while glancing at a pretend wristwatch. "Judging by all those screams and cheers, it's almost time for the big finish. You better hurry."
With one final burst of maniacal laughter, Hal's face disappeared from the television screen. Replacing Hal's face was a series of bright, red numbers that slowly changed by the second.
It was a countdown to the doom of the stadium and everyone in it.
Note from the Author
Hey, so this is the author speaking with an announcement to my readers here on this wonderful site, Hubpages. It is very difficult for me to say this in any other way, so I will just come out and be blunt. I have decided to stop using Hubpages altogether.
This decision did not come at a spur of the moment. I have been a member of the Hubpages community for a couple of years now, although I haven't contributed as much as I probably should have, as of late. I believe that it is a wonderful site that has contributed greatly to my growth as a writer of fictional stories. However, there comes a time where one must rearrange ones priorities in life and as a writer.
I won't stop writing. There are just too many stories left in my head that I want to get out into words. However, with the way things stand with my life which affects my involvement with the Hubpages community, I thought it best to just end it.
My decision doesn't take effect immediately. I still have at least two stories I want to complete here before I sign off permanently. There is a third story I'm working on here, but that has been put aside while I focus on projects that have taken more my interest. Once the two stories, this one and one titled "The Dandy Monsters" has been completed, I'll leave the chapters up for about a week before taking everything down.
I will miss this website and the resources it has provided, as well as interacting with readers whose comments I appreciate.
Thank you, and happy reading!
- Victor Kwok
- Competing Magic (Chapter Twenty-Nine)
Veronica and the others figure something is wrong and go look for a friend.
- Competing Magic (Chapter Thirty-One)
After learning all he needed to know, now was the time for Ezekiel's escape.